NEWS AND ISSUES


Testimony of New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane to the New York City Council Committees on Civil Rights and Veterans Regarding a Resolution Calling for the Repeal of the U.S. Department of Defense's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy

January 25, 2008

My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, which includes the Upper West Side, Clinton/Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, and part of the East Side, including the East Village, Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village and Waterside Plaza. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony before the New York City Council Committees on Civil Rights and Veterans regarding Proposed Resolution 1170-A, which calls the United States President, Congress and Department of Defense to rescind the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and institute a policy that allows lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons to serve openly in the U.S. military.

As someone who has in the past introduced a similar legislative resolution in the New York State Senate, I applaud City Council Speaker Quinn and Council Member Mendez and so many of their colleagues [Council Members Seabrook, Monserrate, Avella, Brewer, Foster, Jackson, James, Koppell, Nelson, Palma, Weprin and Gerson] for this effort. If passed, this resolution will send a strong message to the President, Congress and our military leadership that New Yorkers support enhanced military readiness and oppose the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

There was no good reason for the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to be implemented and there is even less good reason for it to persist. While everyone who wants to serve his or her country should be able to do so, this is an issue of national security and fiscal responsibility as well as a matter of fairness.

According to a report released in 2006 by a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission, in the decade after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted in 1993, over 10,000 service members were discharged from the U.S. military at a cost of more than $360 million to the federal government. Given the numerous military, peacekeeping and humanitarian projects in which our armed forces are currently engaged, it is outrageous that two to three service members are discharged every day under this backward, unjustifiable policy.

There are numerous other problems with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" including:

* "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Hurts Military Readiness. Of the 10,000 plus service members who were discharged in the first ten years of the policy, almost 800 had skills that were deemed critical by the military, according to the 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, including Arabic linguists and intelligence analysts. During a time when our military is overburdened and our government is having trouble recruiting qualified applicants, estimates are that some 40,000 additional people would enlist if lesbian and gay Americans were allowed to openly serve their country.

* Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" supports all of our troops. According to the Urban Institute report "Gay Men and Lesbians in the U.S. Military," an estimated 65,000 members of our military serve in fear of discharge because of their sexual orientation. There are over 1 million veterans who are dishonored by the current policy, and whose service is not properly respected because of the stain of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Defense Department studies have never been able to show that unit cohesion is compromised by the presence of gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members.

* There is widespread support for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". According to a May 2007 CNN poll, 79% of Americans are in favor of allowing people who wish to serve their country to do so openly and without hiding their sexual orientation. Already, the federal CIA, FBI, DIA and Secret Service all allow open service. A full 25 other nations allow open service, including nine who have fought with us in Iraq.

The fact is, the U.S. military's current policy banning open service by gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans hurts our military's readiness, dishonors our veterans and current service members, is immoral and discriminatory, and is wildly unpopular locally, nationally, and worldwide. I thank the City Council's Committees on Civil Rights and Veterans for holding this hearing and urge you to pass Proposed Resolution 1170-A.


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